Long-crested Eagle; Olive Baboon; San Boy: Three African paintings: Barry Kent MacKay

Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis)

A black eagle with boldly white wing patches, most evident in flight, and strongly barred grey and black tail, this is a distinctive species made all the more so by virtue of a very long, rather shaggy crest.   They are found in southern Africa, mostly in forested areas, forest edges, and in riparian vegetation, but also on farms, plantations and in dry country.  By far their main pry is rodents, up to the size of large rats, but they will take other vertebrate species, and probably a few large insects.  In spite of their quite singular appearance, and the traditional placement of them alone in a monotypic genus, recent thinking is that they are actually quite closely related to the Afro-Eurasian spotted eagles in the genus Clanga, which are, in appearance, closer to what I think most of us think an eagle should look like, lacking, as they do, the spectacular crest.  

The painting is in oils on a panel and is approximately life-size, measuring 30 X 24 inches.

The second image I’m posting is a painting I recently completed of an animal whose range overlaps that of the Long-crested Eagle, as does its habitat, preference, the Olive Baboon (Papio anubis).  It is mostly found across a band of central Africa, having been found in no less that 25 different countries.  It’s other common name, the Anubis baboon, also reflected in the scientific name, refers to the Egyptian god, Anubis, who was often depicted as being man-like, but with a dog-like head.  Baboons are, if superficially, dog-like in appearance, with long muzzles and a four-legged gait, but they have forefeet that are more hand-like than dog-like, display greater cognitive ability than canines, and a more complex social structure, although like jackals and coyotes, they are quite omnivorous in their food choices, and often considered a nuisance to farmers. 

The painting is in oils on panel and is 18 by 24 inches.

Third painting, also of an African subject, is a species I don’t draw as often as I used to, my own.  It shows a child of a group of people in Africa called the San, or Saan, people (once called the “bushmen”, a term now regarded as derogatory). I encountered this little guy in the Kalahari Desert, many years ago.  The San fascinate me on many levels, not the least of which their society is, traditionally, egalitarian albeit with a hereditary chief of limited authority, and they survive in ecological harmony (greatly disrupted by modern human practices, including cattle grazing and diamond mining) in an environment that would be fatal to me and most people, I’m sure.  They are classic examples of the “hunter-gatherer” cultures that, anthropologists tell us, once characterized all our ancestors and did so for the most of our existence as a species.  Genetically, the San deviated from the rest of humanity about one hundred thousand years ago, and they were, it appears, the first people to inhabit many southern regions of Africa, now Botswana, where I got the idea for this painting, and South Africa.  They have been called the first known artists, with images on rock dating back some seventy thousand years.  My entire artistic output will only last a tiny fraction of that time.  Physically, they are, on average, distinctive in appearance, short in stature and with high cheek bones and narrow eyes which, I suspect, give them protection against the glare of the sun in arid desert regions.

This little study is about 12 by 9 inches and is in oils on panel.

Barry Kent MacKay

Bird Artist, Illustrator

31 Colonel Butler Drive

Markham, ON L3P 6B6 Canada

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